#197 -- Marebito (2004)

Rating: 3 / 5
Director: Takashi Shimizu

May contain spoilers

If I was able to understand the ideas behind this movie, I would have probably enjoyed it a lot more. I could travel through the depths of the internet to find such things, but I lack the energy and interest to do so. I feel like there was a psychological or philosophical message to be portrayed here, but I just didn't get it. Shimizu failed to fully convey his messages, at least to a simpleton like myself.

It is about a freelance cameraman, Masuoka, who carries his camera everywhere he goes. He should be pitied, since he is unable to live life fully. He only sees things as they appear through his camera's lens. He is a cameraman by day and a voyeur by night, as he shoots windows and doors, hoping to get a glimpse of the goings on inside. He sees a woman staring out into the street, ponders what she searches for, and dubs her a paranoid whose soul he has saved by recording her. He believes that the images he captures are spirits, but that is not what he is looking for. Ghosts are a normal part of life for a lot of people, and they are not to be feared; fear is what he is searching for. He records a man committing suicide by stabbing himself in the eye. He notices the fear in the man's eyes, and believes that he cut out his eye to avoid seeing whatever it was that scared him so badly. Masuoka wishes to experience this kind of terror; he wants to see what the man saw before taking his own life. While watching the video, the man's eyes look directly at Masuko, causing him to have some terrifying visions of strange underground human-like creatures. This leads him to the subway and down, down below Tokyo and into the netherworld.

He meets a couple of people (one being the ghost of the man who killed himself) who tell him about the creatures: Deros (detrimental robots). They are some sort of bloodsucking creatures, and are to be greatly feared. He keeps traveling, until his comes to a beautiful landscape he calls The Mountains of Madness. In a cave among these mountains, he finds a beautiful young girl in chains. He takes her home to his apartment, names her F, and tries to take care of her.

He's informed by a mysterious man on the telephone that he isn't doing his part, and that F will die there if he doesn't shape up. He soon realizes that F feeds solely on blood, and begins to feed her himself. When the fear of dying (not because he doesn't want to, but because he is afraid of what will happen to her when he's gone) takes over, he begins giving her animal corpses to feed on. When it seems like the animals aren't enough, and F becomes weaker and weaker, he begins bringing her a human supply. He meets a woman who claims his daughter Fuyumi is missing (though he denies even having a daughter), and he kills her in an alley. He also kills a young high school girl. He fills baby bottles with their blood and takes them home to F.

After a while of this, he feels let down. He says that even the murder of two innocent women wasn't enough to drive him completely insane, which is what he really wanted. He wanted to feel the madness. But then he admits to killing his wife, and turning his daughter into an animal, so I'm sure it's clear that he was, indeed, insane. He ends up back in the cave with F (or Fuyumi), bloody, with her smiling down on him. In his eyes? Complete and utter terror. So I guess it's a happy ending; he got what he wanted.

The imagery was pretty good in Marebito. I really enjoyed the netherworld scenes, but they didn't last long enough in my opinion. I would've liked for the entire movie to take place in Underground Tokyo, because that premise was very interesting. I don't think this was meant to be a shocking horror, but rather a psychological one. It was meant to show the downfall of Masuoka, and the loss of his sanity. I think there might have been some other messages, but I didn't feel it. I liked my initial belief that F was some sort of underground dwelling creature, and that Masuoka had truly stumbled into the Netherworld. When that belief was shattered, the movie was ruined for me. Sometimes I am able to look deeper into the meanings of movies, but sometimes I'm a complete simpleton--like now. I just didn't see it, and the movie failed for me, but I didn't hate it. It was interesting, even if it wasn't one of my favorite J-horrors.

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